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Mountain rescue

Mountain rescue


Postby dogplodder » Thu Sep 19, 2013 11:12 pm

Route description: Beinn Mheadhoin via the Shelter Stone

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Mheadhoin

Date walked: 30/08/2010

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Been sitting on this one for a while. Three years to be exact. I’ve been back and finished the climb now and with Pauline imminently running her fund-raising marathon for Mountain Rescue it seems like a good time to finally write a report on what was an amazing day in all kinds of ways.

Moira (gizmogirl), the two dogs and I set off to climb Beinn Mheadhoin from the Coire Cas ski car park slightly later than planned, due to Moira having to sort out her recently acquired GPS map gizmo. We walked up alongside the ski paraphernalia (not the most inspiring start) and took a right turn off the track on to the excellent path up the Fiacaill a’Choire Chais ridge. We were disappointed that despite an excellent forecast from MWIS we were in thick cloud.

Once we reached the large cairn on the plateau we still couldn’t see anything so checked compass and GPS and walked in the direction we thought, picking up a path as we went. But seeing the cliffs of the northern corries looming out of the clag on our right told us we were on the path to Ben Macdui so about turned and retraced our steps, looking for the start of a path heading south for Coire Raibert. At about the point we found it the cloud lifted and we had our first view of where we were heading.

Cloud lifting
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Path down Coire Raibert
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The path down to the Loch Avon basin is steep and requires care in a couple of places. When back there recently work was being done on the path and it’s now much improved.

Path down to Loch Avon
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We decided not to cross the burn but continued down to Loch Avon where we stopped for something to eat. It was a beautiful spot and we sat there soaking up the sun for longer than we should have.

Jack
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Moira with dogs (last photo of that ankle intact)
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Carn Etchachan and Shelter Crag
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We made our way along the shore path to the beaches at the head of the loch where the dogs enjoyed a swim.

Tess with stone in mouth
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Moira forging ahead in direction of Feith Buidhe
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When we reached the Feith Buidhe it was too full to cross easily and we probably made an error in not removing boots and paddling across which would have saved time. Instead we walked up its north side until we found a place to cross and then returned into a maze of huge boulders (one of which would have been the celebrated Shelter Stone but we weren’t sure if we found the actual one). The path we were on took us round in a circle and involved clambering over massive boulders to get to where we wanted to be on the slanting path up towards Loch Etchachan. Once on the right path it was a stiff climb with lovely views of Loch Avon opening up below.

Looking back to the path we came down
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Loch Avon
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I looked at my watch and was concerned to see how long it had taken us to reach this point. I called out to Moira that we’d have to speed up if we were going to make the summit of Beinn Mheadhoin and have time for the return in daylight. With Cairngorm to climb over on the way back it wasn’t the usual kind of descent. I wondered at what point we’d have to turn back even if it meant not reaching the summit.

I suspect it was this that caused Moira’s accident. She was trying to hurry as the path went through a water-logged section which involved a bit of boulder-hopping. I was ahead standing talking to the only people we had met all day, who were on their way down from climbing Beinn Mheadhoin. I was asking how much longer it would be to the top when I heard Moira call out. The guy said “Your friend has fallen” so we rushed back to find her lying awkwardly with right ankle at an odd angle. She had missed her footing on a boulder, heard a sickening crack and was in intense pain. There was no doubt the ankle was broken and she wouldn’t be walking out of there.

At some point after this I asked Moira if I should take photos and she said yes as she’d possibly not remember too much about what happened and it would be useful to have some photographic evidence. So, with apologies to anyone of a nervous or squeamish disposition, here’s the brave lady with dislocated ankle broken in three places (as we found out later).

Managing a smile despite intense pain
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We didn’t have a mobile signal so the couple (whose names I’ve forgotten, but they were training for walking in Himalayas) insisted we have their bivvy tent, took the exact co-ordinates of where we were and sped off to find a point where there was a signal to phone emergency services. I tried to make Moira as comfortable as possible (not easy surrounded by puddles and rocks), helped her put her jacket on and gave her Ibuprofen to take the edge off the pain. Don’t think Ibuprofen did much when it was morphine she needed but she was amazing even joking that we should have brought the Scrabble to pass the time while we waited!

We were concerned to keep the dogs away from walking into the injured ankle but they seemed to understand and for a while Jack sat down close to Moira, gently leaning in to her as if to give warmth and comfort. Dogs can be so intuitive at times like these and it was a touching moment.

It wasn’t very long before a second couple appeared who had met the first couple. After a quick chat they continued in the direction of Loch Etchachan saying they too would phone for help as soon as they got a signal. When they reached the loch they came across a bunch of Duke of Ed folk camping and told them what had happened so before we knew it two guys joined us and between the three of us we were able to transfer Moira on to a more comfortable rock than the one she had half landed on when she fell. They also kept us going with their chat and funny stories about meeting the Duke of Ed!

We kept thinking we could hear something coming but there was nothing. I dread to think how it must be for injured folk waiting for rescue in poor weather and in a dangerous position. Although we had the bivvy tent (which was later posted back to owner) we didn’t need it as it was a lovely sunny day - and only 90 minutes after Moira’s fall help arrived in the shape of a large yellow helicopter from RAF Kinloss.

Helicopter flying over
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Relief on Moira's face
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Flare dropped
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Returning to land
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We wondered if the terrain was too wet and rocky for landing and if it would be a winching job - but they landed safely just a short distance away.

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I assumed because I had the dogs I would have to walk back once Moira was on her way to hospital. I knew the dogs would be frightened so put them on the lead to stop them bolting. To my surprise the RAF guys said it was fine for me and the dogs to travel with them and asked me to board with the dogs before getting Moira on. As we approached the helicopter with its rotor blades whirring Jack twice slipped his collar trying to get away from it and I was so thankful when I called him he came straight back to me. You never know when good dog training will be vital. If he had bolted we couldn’t have delayed getting Moira to hospital and I would have had no alternative than to stay behind with the dogs. Once we reached the helicopter Jack tried to hide under it but I coaxed him out and lifted him on board, then Tess.

I used to wonder why RAF men have rectangular patches on the front of their trousers at thigh level. Now I know. In order to get into the helicopter in ladylike manner you are invited to put your foot on said patch belonging to hunky RAF guy and climb aboard! To think it could have been HRH that I was stepping on – but then again his job was to drive the machine rather than offer a step up so it wasn’t likely!

These men were efficient, reassuring and utterly professional. They even thanked us for calling them out on such a beautiful day! They had been to this spot during training on a different kind of day so appreciated coming back when they could see it at its best.

I was handed head phones to mute the deafening noise and told to sit at the back. The dogs (whose hearing is so much more acute than ours) had no head phones and must have been terrified but once I sat down Jack lay at my feet, Tess curled up on my lap and they didn't move for the rest of the time on board. The guys said they sometimes have problems with dogs but these two behaved perfectly, for which I was very grateful.

Moira being carefully stretchered on
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Once on board Moira was assessed. There was concern that if the ankle was dislocated the blood supply to foot would be compromised and would need urgent attention to reposition it. She was given gas and air while they examined it and I was praying they wouldn’t have to straighten it when she was already in so much pain. They didn’t have to.

We were very quickly in the air alongside the Shelter Crag and if it hadn’t been for Moira’s situation it would have been a highly enjoyable experience seeing from the air the route we had taken earlier.

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Cairn Toul and Angel's Peak
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My car was parked at the Cairngorm car park and there was some discussion about whether they would touch down and let me and the dogs off there. But for Moira it was important she was attended to quickly so they decided against that and if I’d been given the choice I’d have opted for staying with Moira anyway. As we flew over the northern corries my camera stopped working so I've got no more photos from the flight.

Northern corries
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We landed at Raigmore and Moira was stretched off into the waiting ambulance. I jumped out with two dogs on leads, two rucksacks, four walking poles and was immediately hurtled across the tarmac into waiting ambulance! The look on the paramedic’s face when two dogs jumped in was priceless. I apologised and explained they were frightened of the noise so he said it was fine they could stay on board. Once at the door of A & E we followed the stretcher in and that’s how it happened that two dogs ended up in the heart of A & E.

A senior nurse said “You can’t bring dogs in here” but when I explained we’d been airlifted off the hill with injured pal and leaving them outside to wander round the car park wasn’t exactly an option, they couldn’t have been more helpful – showing me out to the courtyard where staff went for their breaks. Once out there I fed them my remaining sandwiches and they had a big fuss made of them by off duty staff while I got back inside to be with Moira.

The ankle was seriously injured and needed pins and a metal plate to rebuild it. It was several days before the swelling went down enough for a plaster to go on and Moira spent 8 days in hospital. There then followed weeks on crutches, months of physio and more surgery 18 months later to remove most of the metal and repair a torn tendon.

It has been a long haul to recovery but she's been determined to get back to the hills and this year climbed several Munros including Sgurr a' Mhaim, Sgorr nam Fiannaidh and Blaven. :clap: :D
Last edited by dogplodder on Mon Apr 02, 2018 3:26 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby dogplodder » Thu Sep 19, 2013 11:17 pm

Five days after accident still without plaster
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby AnnieMacD » Thu Sep 19, 2013 11:31 pm

Great report - I've seen you referring to this a few times so now know all the details. Happy it worked out well and that Moira is back up to full speed. What an experience! Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby laconic surf » Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:11 am

Well done Moira for being so brave :clap: Glad to hear she is well on the road to recovery, and well done to the dogs for being so well behaved. I must get you to teach my unruly boxers a trick or two :lol:
All the time I was reading this report I could hear the guy from Highland Emergency doing the commentary - "Minty and Hobnob get a call reporting a woman has fallen in the Cairngorms, it may be a winching job but they find a safe place to land. The woman has a badly broken ankle and is taken to Raigmore with her friend and two dogs. She was kept in hospital for 8 days but will soon be ready to head back to the hills" :lol:
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby gizmogirl » Fri Sep 20, 2013 9:15 am

I cannot praise the Mountain Rescue service highly enough! The guys were amazing, so reassuring, efficient and professional. The Raigmore Hospital care from medics, nurses and physios was fantastic too. A huge thank you to all who contributed to my rescue, treatment and rehabilitation, not least my pal dogplodder and our faithful companions Jack and Tess who have encouraged me back on to the hills and patiently put up with my slow pace! Onwards and upwards!
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby Mountainlove » Fri Sep 20, 2013 10:59 am

Oh that was so interesting and I love the pictures from inside the helicopter and out. Not that I wish anyone to ever be in this situation , but to fly with a helicopter over the hills must be great (when no one is injured)
Its incredible how much damaged that accident caused and I am glad that she recovered fully since and that you were able to return to the same mountain. Had to laugh about the comment that the mountain rescue guys said thank you for calling them on a beautiful day...I guess they will be more used to much worse conditions.
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby wilkiemurray » Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:01 am

Glad it all turned out ok, very stressful at the time - I can sympathise on how slow time passes when waiting on hearing the sound of helicopter blades arriving! Glad everyone is ok and the dogs were all ok too...
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby weaselmaster » Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:42 am

Good to read the report
A reminder of just how easily it is for things to go wrong - the kind of injury that could happen to anyone out on the hills, and reassuring to know that the outcome can go smoothly too
Thanks for posting, and glad rocovery of function has been achieved
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby tweedledog » Fri Sep 20, 2013 12:51 pm

Excellent read, and glad it worked out so well and Moira is back on the hills. The possibility of this kind of accident often crosses my mind when I'm out with just the dog, no phone signal, and miles from anywhere. Your dogs obviously did very well; I'm not so sure that The Whippet would...
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby ballarat » Fri Sep 20, 2013 3:26 pm

:clap: :clap: big well dones to all :clap: :clap: and especially on having trained and obedient dogs :clap: :clap: :clap:

raigmore :) happy memories :) used to go to dances ther around 1964 :D :D
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby mrssanta » Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:50 pm

Don't think I have seen a picture of Moira without a grin. Even when in severe pain.
hope you have all sponsored Polly !!!
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby dogplodder » Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:33 pm

AnnieMacD wrote:Great report - I've seen you referring to this a few times so now know all the details. Happy it worked out well and that Moira is back up to full speed. What an experience! Thanks for sharing.


Thanks Annie! :D
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby dogplodder » Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:38 pm

laconic surf wrote:
All the time I was reading this report I could hear the guy from Highland Emergency doing the commentary - "Minty and Hobnob get a call reporting a woman has fallen in the Cairngorms, it may be a winching job but they find a safe place to land. The woman has a badly broken ankle and is taken to Raigmore with her friend and two dogs. She was kept in hospital for 8 days but will soon be ready to head back to the hills" :lol:


Highland Emergency is compulsive viewing in our house now! :lol: But seriously they do a great job. :clap:
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby Ibex » Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:39 pm

That looks nasty. Poor Moria. Nice to see her putting a brave face on!
Thank God for the MR. Fantastic people! Just glad I have not yet had to make use of their wonderful talents.

Sadly when up in the Cairngorms earlier this year, I never got to do that side of them.
Those photo's are fantastic though. Particularly love the one of Jack sat in front of Shelter Crag. Nature displayed in all its glory! :D

Get better soon Moria.
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Re: Mountain rescue

Postby dogplodder » Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:46 pm

gizmogirl wrote:I cannot praise the Mountain Rescue service highly enough! The guys were amazing, so reassuring, efficient and professional. The Raigmore Hospital care from medics, nurses and physios was fantastic too. A huge thank you to all who contributed to my rescue, treatment and rehabilitation, not least my pal dogplodder and our faithful companions Jack and Tess who have encouraged me back on to the hills and patiently put up with my slow pace! Onwards and upwards!


You've made such an impressive come back after a very nasty injury and I've yet to hear one word of complaint! :clap:

Absolutely to "onwards and upwards"! :D
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